Hindu nationalist leaders moved one step closer to their goal of a Hindu Rashtra (nation) when an extremist leader was proposed as a candidate to take the office of President of India.
Shiv Sena, an ally of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a leading partner in the ruling coalition, put forward the name of Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) on March 27 2017.
The RSS or the National Volunteer Organization is the ideological mother of the BJP and the main proponent of the concept of Hindu Rashtra (Nation). It is a right wing, Hindu nationalist, and paramilitary volunteer organization.
Mr Mohan Bhagwat, considered widely, the second most powerful man in the nation, has often been in the news declaring India as a Hindu nation, categorizing all Indians as Hindus, opposing conversions and encouraging re-conversions to Hinduism. The RSS’s disdain for pluralism and religious and linguistic minorities is well-known as well as its policy of “one nation, one culture, and one people.”
The current President of India, Pranab Mukherjee’s term, comes to an end on 24 July and it is widely believed that the BJP led ruling coalition will seek to appoint a candidate they are much more comfortable with.
Winning Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, has made it easy for the BJP to have a person of their choice for the top job in the country.
Member of Parliament from the Shiv Sena, Mr. Sanjay Raut had mentioned to the Hindustan Times (HT) on 27 March, that he had heard that Mr. Mohan Bhagwat’s name was being discussed for President. He had welcomed Mr. Bhagwat’s name as an ideal choice for the highest post in the country for he felt that the ascension of Mr. Bhagwat would make way for the objective of the Hindu Rashtra (Nation) to become a reality.
“After a long time, there is an atmosphere of Hindutva in the country. A Hindutvawadi [pro Hindu] leader is the Prime Minister of the country in the form of Narendra Modi. Recently, Yogi Adityanath, another Hindutva leader, was made the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. So if the dream of a Hindu rashtra has to be fulfilled, then Bhagwat should be made the President,” he had said to HT.
Mr Raut reportedly told HT that since the BJP has selected and appointed chief ministers associated with the RSS and they shouldn’t shy away from nominating Bhagwat for President.
Mr Bhagwat dismissed the reports as “entertainment news” on 29 March at a function in Nagpur. The Shiv Sena in the meantime has indicated that the BJP cannot take its support for granted in the President’s election.
The proposal of Mr. Bhagwat’s name came in the backdrop of Yogi Adityanath’s ascension as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), after the landslide victory of the party in the state.
That the BJP chose Adityanath, 44, a Hindu priest and a fanatic Hindu right wing leader for the position of the Chief Minister, came as a surprise to many. Adityanath has been described by the New York Times (NYT) as a person who “has made a political career of demonizing Muslims, thundering against such imaginary plots as “love jihad”: the notion that Muslim men connive to water down the overwhelming Hindu majority by seducing Hindu women.”
The Guardian was even more caustic in its observations in its editorial, which said that the appointment of Adityanath was a signal that minorities in India “exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. Step out of line and there will be blood.”
Veteran Indian journalist Shekhar Gupta in his statement to the NYT spelt the facts plainly about the appointment of Adityanath and the goal of the Hindu Rashtra (Nation). He said that the choice of Adityanath for CM meant that “it’s a Hindu country, that’s the fact, and we’ll be nice to you if you behave yourself,”
Adityanath is facing several criminal charges that include attempted murder, defiling a place of worship and inciting riots. He has often taken a stand against religious conversions and by extension against Christians and Muslims, calling even Mother Teresa “part of the conspiracy to Christianise India”.
He enjoys massive popularity however, and his Hindu Yuva Vahini, a militant Hindu youth outfit, formed by Adityanath, has been described as an armed vigilante group stoking communal (sectarian) riots.
Adityanath enjoys the attention and the popularity and in a speech quoted by the media he had reportedly said, “When I speak, thousands listen. When I ask them to rise and protect our Hindu culture, they obey. If I ask for blood, they will give me blood…I will not stop till I turn UP and India into a Hindu rashtra.”